When you think about the 1920’s, you can imagine cars racing up the back roads of Northwood Hills, revenuers hot on their tails as the bootleggers screech into darkness garages.
But is not what you imagine when you buy a house in Palm Beach in the present days, the remains of that era are not around anymore. But as we’ve seen so far in different lives and amazing stories of findings all over the world, sometimes bits of the past just come up to the surface, or you go down to the past.
This is precisely what happened to George, and Barbarann Paddick went through in their new home. They bought a lovely house in a historic neighborhood back in 2009.
The house was also built back in 1926, and it was a cozy, salmon-colored house surrounding by lots of greenery perched on a coastal ridge high above most of West Palm Beach. So high that the house is 44 feet above sea level, that means that the home has a rare
basement, a feature that is very rare in Palm Beach houses. This adding to a house in this area was made only by the persons who were looking to create an illegal liquor settlement in the time prohibition. At least that’s what the rumors say.
Paddick said that he had no idea of the history of the house until he started chatting with a neighbor that lived in the house back in 1980 but had since moved across the street. That neighbor turned out to be Jim Ponce, a well-known historian, famous for his Worth Avenue walking tours in Palm Beach.
He became the official historian of Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce and The Breakers as well as being the president of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Between chats, Ponce asked him if the tunnels were still there, between the basement and the garage.
Paddock is currently the owner of a cosmetic car repair business in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and is a past commodore of the Palm Beach Sailing Club.
Paddick and his wife were just shocked by that comment, and they started looking for the tunnels right away.
The tunnels were not visible at plain sight, and until then he thought their only were cobwebs and spiders in that basement, but an idea was implanted in his head. He went down there, and he took the difficult task of clearing everything away.
And there it was, just as his neighbor said some tunnels were tapped out and that wasn’t seeable from the basement only at plain sight. He just had to get to the bottom of this mystery.
The discovery took Paddick for an extreme surprise, he was amazed by the fact that he hadn’t look further into the basement, and he now encourages people to check old houses they own to see what treasures they hold. It’s entirely worth it!
During Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, bootleggers would sneak booze from the Bahamas and elsewhere and haul it ashore in Palm Beach. And Paddick was aware of that; that’s why he went back to Ponce to ask for the possible purpose of the tunnels.
The incredible Ponce, who died at an astonishing age of 98, told Paddick that the owner of the house back in 1920 used to go back to the shore, load up his truck with a lot of liquor and then he proceeded to move it uphills to hide it in those tunnels.
When he got to the house, the owner would pass the bottles through the narrow tunnels to a helper in the basement that would stock shelves with them.
Then they proceeded to claim the goods of the illicit business by selling the bottles from the basement, right under where the dining room sits.
When Paddick started to clean the basement, he proved that the story that told Ponce was right – as everything that this man said in his life – and the shelves where the bottles were held were still there. The entire room maybe around 10 feet by 10 feet lit by a single lightbulb that made space look precisely how an illegal storing site will look like.}
The tunnel entrance, an opening on the side of a wall, has been partially covered over with concrete but it’s there, a tight squeeze at about 2 feet by 2 feet.
This finding talks a lot about how the business of liquor was handled back in the 1920’s, and historians can conclude that the previews owner of the house was a very wealthy man, but at a high cost. This type of illicit storages would get raided and the person that made it would be charged with different felonies.
How many stories could this house tell?
Either way, for Paddick it is an honor to have such a fantastic piece of history in his house, and he has kept the tunnels just as they were as an honor to the story the fantastic basement tells.